I was in Charlottesville tonight, watching Deck McGuire take on the University of Virginia, and by the time I got home, the Pirates were down 8-0. Since I didn’t watch much of the game after that point, I figured I would dedicate the main topic of the notebook to a subject I did follow tonight.
Everyone knows about Bryce Harper in the draft this year. Sports Illustrated called him “baseball’s LeBron James”. Heading in to this weekend he had a .426/.529/.852 line at the JuCo level, with a homer every 9.58 at-bats. In the month of March he hit for a .535/.648/1.233 line with a homer every 5.38 at-bats in 43 at-bats. All of this is while using a wooden bat, by the way.
Harper is clearly the best prospect in the draft, but there are rumors and speculation that he might not go first overall. Part of that is due to the silence from the Nationals on the subject, and it would only be fair to point out that the same rumors and speculation existed last year with Steven Strasburg. However, there is a big difference between Harper and Strasburg.
With Strasburg, you pretty much knew what you were getting. He’s an amazing pitching prospect, and pretty much a guarantee to make the majors. You’ve got the risk of injury that comes with all pitching prospects, but that’s no different than signing a free agent and hoping he stays healthy. In fact, Strasburg is pretty much a free agent signing that the Nationals landed in the draft.
Harper is easily the best prospect in the draft this year, but he’s nowhere near Strasburg’s level. Harper is still years away from the majors, and there’s no guarantee he’ll even make the majors. This brings up a major conflict. Harper is good enough to go first overall, but he’s being touted as the best prospect of all time, and with Scott Boras as his agent, he will probably be aiming for a Strasburg-type bonus, maybe more. A bonus at that level for Strasburg is one thing, since you know what you’re getting. A bonus for a 17 year old who is unproven is a totally different thing.
You could try to argue that Harper’s JuCo stats give him credibility, but that’s still the JuCo level. There are so many factors to consider, one of which is a possible attitude problem which led to Harper being ejected from a game and suspended from the next game for taunting the opponents after a home run, and this was after he was warned a few times by the umpires.
Harper is the number one talent, but his bonus demands may be too high for his talent level, and there’s a better chance that he returns to school, unlike a guy like Strasburg. In fact, Harper could go back to the draft three more times after the 2010 season, although that’s not likely with talk of a hard slotting system.
Things get even more interesting for the Pirates if Harper goes off the board with the first pick. Jameson Taillon is stepping up as the second best player in the draft, although the Pirates avoided high school pitchers in the first round last year, and chances are they’ll take that same approach this year. That leaves guys like McGuire and Drew Pomeranz as the top candidates.
McGuire and Pomeranz are good, but most have a hard time considering them worthy of the number two overall pick. Under the circumstances, the Pirates might be back in the situation they were in for the 2009 draft. Outside of Taillon, no one really stands out behind Harper, although Pomeranz is making a nice push lately. There’s no safe pick like a Dustin Ackley available for the Pirates to take second overall. So while Pomeranz or McGuire may not be future aces, they might be the best options the Pirates have to choose from, assuming they wouldn’t take Taillon.
The college season has just reached the halfway point, and the draft is about two months away, so there’s still time for someone to step up. Maybe by the time the draft rolls around, someone like Christian Colon would have emerged as a Dustin Ackley type option. For now it’s looking like Bryce Harper is the sole prize at the top of the draft, and even Harper comes with issues.
-Jason Grey of ESPN had a Twitter evaluation of Charlie Morton after tonight.
-Drew Pomeranz had a strong outing tonight, pitching eight innings and allowing just one run on four hits, with 15 strikeouts and three walks. ESPNU will be showing the replay this morning (4/10) at 9:00 AM EST.
-I’ll have photos of Deck McGuire up tomorrow, plus a recap of his performance.